‘the resurgence of unions in the strangest of places’…

Angela Gorrie reports on Dundee

While traditional manufacturing industries are declining in Dundee, it’s beginning to seem like workers’ struggles are on the rise.

It’s saying something when a city which once boasted to be the home of ‘Jute, Jam and Journalism’ now lists Tesco as its largest single employer. Of the 29 companies who employ more than 300 people, few can claim to be involved in any kind of manufacture. While Michelin still remains, the likes of Timex have been replaced by companies specialising in biotechnology and computer games and the city council never tire of talking up their so called ‘Cultural Quarter’.

The 1993 Timex strike, where locked out striking workers continued to fight against their employers for over six months until the factory’s eventual closure, has recently been remembered as a both a play and an exhibition at the local university.

While it’s unlikely to be long remembered outside the city, last year’s workers occupation of the Prisme Packaging factory should also serve as an inspiration.

Despite not being involved with any trade unions, when told they were to lose their jobs with no compensation, the twelve workers occupied the premises to demand their agreed redundancy payments.

Their victory was far greater than this as a few weeks later they had won enough support and financial backing to set up the co-operatively run Discovery Packaging. Despite a tough first year, their company is still trading. A perfect example that fighting back can work.

Dundee is currently seeing the resurgence of unions in the strangest of places, within D.C. Thomson, publishers of the Beano, Dandy and local papers The Courier and The Evening Telegraph.

The publisher has a weall deserved reputation for being anti-union, breaking with the unions shortly after the 1926 General Strike. However, following last month’s announcement of 350 job losses at their printing works, open union meetings have been held with reports of large numbers of staff joining the National Union of Journalists.

Like most employers, they claim that profits are down. In reality however dividends increased last year from £13.8 to £14.5 million  – with the the three family directors, not exactly short of a pound or two, raking in £250,000 between them.

This announcement comes on top of a long chain of events which has seen high cost management consultants being hired and further staff given early redundancy.

The greatest irony of all is that the Courier, their best known publication in the area, is currently running a campaign… to safeguard Dundee jobs!